Strawberry and Champagne Jame - Preserving Time Part 1

Long before it enjoyed a retro cool revival (along with dress making, baking and crafting), I have ritually made jams and chutneys, and generally sung the praises of preserving.  It is probably linked to childhood, I have vivid memories of cooking with my Mother when I was at a very young age, and I have particularly fond memories of jam making.  I would stand on a stool with Mum, and test with a finger on a frozen saucer to see if the jam had set yet.  It seemed magical.  It still does.  The smell alone can transport me back in time to 1980s England. 
If you've never made jam before don't think that it is difficult.  It really isn't, it takes a little time, but actually it's straight forward.  Also, don't believe the gadget hype.  You don't need a specialist 'jam maker' to produce jams.  You don't even need a preserving pan - a large saucepan with a decent bottom would do for first timers giving it a go.  And you don't need to buy pectin sugar or add pectin to your jam to make it set, it's an extra expense you don't need.

What you might need to invest in is a few preserving jars (or else start saving empty jam and sauce jars when they're empty), and the only other you might want to consider if you can spare a few bucks is a jam funnel.  I say this as someone who is a self-confessed clutz who has several 'jam scars' when bottling the finished product.  If you're clumsy like me, invest in a jam funnel.  It will save you from painful burns.

The recipe below is the simple three ingredient method my Mum always used, but with one little addition to add that extra touch of indulgence - Champagne.


1.5kg firm strawberries
1kg castor sugar
Juice of 2 lemons and pips
2 tablespoons of Champagne or sparkling wine.

This recipe makes around 1.5kg of jam, so you will need enough jars for that amount. You can buy one or two large jars, of lots of smaller ones.  I always make a few small jars that can be used as last minute gifts for people.


1) Hull the strawberries and then wipe them clean with a piece of damp kitchen paper.  Don't wash them else you will have trouble getting the jam to set (because it will water down the pectin).

2) Put the strawberries in the preserving pan (or large heavy bottomed saucepan) and sprinkle them with the sugar.  Leave them overnight covering the pan with a tea towel.  By morning most of the sugar will have dissolved. 

3) Pop six saucers in the freezer

4) Place the pan of strawberries on a low heat to melt when is left of the sugar, giving an occasional stir.

5) When the sugar has disolved completely add the lemon juice and lemon pips wrapped in a muslin /spice bag (use a clean hanky if you don't have one) then whack up the heat.

6) Time for 8.5 minutes, then take one of your saucers from the freeze. Take a teaspoon of the jam mixture, pop it on the chilled saucer and allow it to cool for a minute.  If it forms a crinkly skin then it is set.  If it isn't then boil for a further 3 or 4 minutes before trying again.  Keep repeating until you get to the 'crinkly skin' stage.  Don't worry if it takes a while, it often can - I have never yet have a jam set on the first try.

7) Once you've reached the 'set' point, remove from the heat, then skim off any foam from the surface.  When that is done stir in the Champagne. Leave the jam to settle for 15 minutes.

8) Next you need to sterilise the preserving jars.  Some people get rather worried about this, but it really is very simple.  If you have a dishwasher simply pop the jars and lids in it and put it on a hot wash.  If you don't have a dishwasher, wash your jars in warm soappy water, rinse with warm water, dry, then pop into a  oven at 150 degrees 10 minutes.

9) Transfer the jam to the warmed jars (the jars must be still warm from the oven) and seal.

10) Once the jars have cooled down you can label them up.

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